An owner and former top executive of the embattled drug firm Purdue Pharma reportedly died on June 30.
According to the New York Post, a new court filing shows that 65-year-old Jonathan Sackler is dead following a battle with cancer.
A vilified family business
Raymond Sackler, Jonathan’s father, purchased the pharmaceutical company — then called Purdue Frederick — with his brother in 1952. The business has remained in the family’s control ever since.
While a top executive a member of the company’s board, Jonathan Sackler oversaw its name change and played a role in many of its controversial pursuits. He was also an advocate for charter schools and reportedly donated to related causes.
The family still retains ownership of the firm, though all family members have stepped down from executive roles and board memberships amid sharp criticism and litigation over the powerful painkiller OxyContin.
The toll of an epidemic
Purdue Pharma is facing thousands of lawsuits filed by local and state governments seeking to hold its leaders accountable for their role in the opioid crisis that has resulted in a reported 400,000 American deaths since 2000.
Many of those suits specifically name members of the Sackler family as defendants. A proposed settlement agreement calls for the individuals to pay as much as $3 billion from their personal fortunes while renouncing any further stake in the company.
As The Guardian reported, members of the family are accused of deceiving and misleading the American people and doctors about the dangers of OxyContin after Purdue Pharma developed it in the mid-1990s.
Consequences for the Sacklers
The subsequent popularity of the prescription painkiller made the Sacklers one of the wealthiest families in the country.
Although a significant amount of that personal wealth was donated to charitable causes, those philanthropic efforts are now also coming under intense scrutiny.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for example, announced in 2019 that it would refuse any future donations from the family, according to the Washington Examiner.
Even as Jonathan Sackler’s loved ones mourn his death, his family’s perceived role in perpetuating a deadly drug epidemic across America continues to overshadow any coverage they receive.